Retail

Stepping Into The Future Of Footwear With 3-D Printing

Consumers who want to buy insoles for their shoes typically have one of two choices: They can either by an off-the-shelf insole at a local brick-and-mortar store, or they can visit a doctor for custom-fitted orthotics.

These traditional options may not be attractive to all consumers. To have their foot scanned in a retail environment, for example, consumers might not be comfortable standing on a machine that has been used by many other customers. And, to purchase custom-fit orthotics, consumers might have to visit a doctor more than one time. The resulting orthotics can be expensive, and consumers might only get one pair.

With these challenges in mind, Shamil Hargovan set out to create a new experience for consumers to purchase customized insoles. Instead of forcing customers to leave the house to visit a doctor or a store, Hargovan helped create a system that allows them to scan their feet from their smartphones for a custom fitting. Consumers can then order the insoles from the app. The advantages? “You can buy as many pairs as you want,” Wiivv CEO and Co-Founder Shamil Hargovan told PYMNTS in an interview. “[And] you can scan yourself from the convenience of your living room.”

Here’s how the service works: Consumers download Wiivv’s app. They then take four pictures: Two of the top of their feet and two of the sides of their feet.

“That gives us all the data we need to make a custom insole for your foot,” Hargovan said.

With the data, Wiivv can run the measurements through software that can biomechanically enhance the soles. If a consumer has high arches, for example, the company can engineer additional support. And if a consumer has low arches, the company can cater to that as well. The company manufactures the insoles in a facility located in California. Through a hybrid process, the company prints part of the product and assembles another part by traditional methods. After the insoles are produced, they arrive at a customer’s door in an average of 10 days for those in the U.S.

The Business Model

Unlike more traditional brands, Wiivv doesn’t have inventory. The company gets paid up front for the soles and then produces them. In contrast, other retailers might buy a large inventory and hope they can sell it all. Through Hargovan’s business model and digital printing technology, he can simply make his products on demand. In terms of customers, Hargovan counts on athletes for a portion of his business, but he has two other predominant segments. They include an older customer who has a little disposable income and wants to stay active. In addition, he has wellness seekers — those who are proactive about their health and want to get support and balance.

Additionally, Wiivv works on a B2B to C strategy, partnering with leading brands to provide Wiivv’s fit tech as a platform. The idea is that when customers order shoes from a brand, they don’t have to throw out a generic insole that doesn’t match their needs: A Wiivv insole could come with the shoe. Hargovan is convinced that this functional, custom mode of selling is going to be a big trend. While Hargovan said, “the current solution in eCommerce is not dialed for that,” it could be with time.

The Path Ahead

In the future, Wiivv plans to roll out additional products. As of June, for example, Wiivv plans to launch sandals, just in time for the summer season. The CEO said the sandals exceeded expectations for preorder. Similar to the soles that offer a customized solution, the sandals will offer an individualized toe location, arch and volume. And, just like the soles, the sandals will be delivered to the customers’ doors. They also have been road-tested: One of the company’s staffers actually ran the Boston Marathon with the sandals. The run was a bit of a bet that “we could make something so good that you would be able to do that,” Hargovan said.

Hargovan wants Wiivv to be a company that offers more than just insoles or footwear: He sees the company as enabling other brands to offer customized products to consumers.

“I see Wiivv as the leading platform in customization for the body across footwear, apparel and what you might call wearables,” Hargovan said. “We see a big part of business powering leading brands while also showing brands … [and the] world what’s possible.”

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